Secular Bangladeshi Activist Granted Asylum in Germany

Shammi Haque

A secular activist, who received death threats from Islamist militants in Bangladesh, was recently granted asylum in Germany. After receiving many threats due to her activism, 22-year-old Shammi Haque decided to seek help from the United States-based Center for Inquiry, which offered her immediate assistance to ensure her safe relocation.

“When I was targeted, I was so afraid,” said Haque. “Every day I thought, this may be my last day, I may not see the next day’s sunrise. … Now I have asylum here, so I can live safely. So I am very thankful to the German government for giving me asylum so quickly. … When I was born, my identity was ‘human being’. When I grew up, my identity was ‘woman.’ Then they added ‘Muslim woman,’ and everybody forgot my first identity. I was fighting for my first identity, and I’m still doing that. I want only one identity: ‘Human being.’ All of my activism and my writing is for my first identity.”

Haque, who has established herself in Bangladesh as a fearless and outspoken activist defending free expression and secularism, frequently writes on her blog about human rights and democracy while also criticizing radical Islam. She has been seen at most public protests and demonstrations as a popular critic of religious extremism, an important factor that tends to contribute to secular resistance. That is perhaps why she was among those targeted by the same militants, who have brutally murdered many other freethinkers and secularists in the country over the last few years.

“Shammi is well-known for her courage and unwavering advocacy for secularism and free expression,” said Michael De Dora, CFI’s public policy director and coordinator of its efforts in Bangladesh. “She has shown that same courage throughout an ordeal in which she has been targeted for her unwillingness to be silent. We are delighted and relieved that we could have some hand in bringing her to safety so that she can continue to speak out and serve as an inspiration to others.”

Apparently, Haque was cautioned after she received a couple of anonymous death threats and saw her name on a public hit list of secular writers. She immediately contacted CFI, which launched the Freethought Emergency Fund in 2015 to lend assistance to secularists in places like Bangladesh, whose lives are threatened by their wanting to exercise the right to free expression.

Photo Credits: ScribbleLive

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